The DJ, producer and Kings Of Tomorrow and Hacienda Classical vocalist on why she's launching her own label
Even if the name Rae doesn't ring any immediate bells, you'll almost certainly be familiar with her work. There's certainly enough of it...
As a vocalist, her tonsils have graced releases by Kings Of Tomorrow (including the 2008 classic Can't Stop), ATFC, Danism and DJ SKT, while as a producer in her own right, she's had tracks and remixes on such respected labels as Defected, Spinnin', Armada, Get Twisted, Toolroom and more. Most recently, she's been providing vocals for the successful Hacienda Classical project, in which guise she's played the Royal Albert Hall and the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury.
Meanwhile, as a topline writer she's also worked with the likes of DJ Snake and The Chainsmokers. Oh, and naturally, she's a DJ as well - you can check out her talents on the Defected In The House: Tokyo '11 compilation.
In fact, when it comes to dance music there's seemingly nothing the London-born artist can't do... and now she's adding a new string to her bow, the one marked 'label owner'. She's just set up her own label RATED, and the label's first release, My Soul from Rae herself, dropped on 15 September.
With so much else going on, we wondered what the impetus was to branch out under her own steam right now. So we asked her.
Can we start with how you got into making music in the first place?
"My big brother was into rave and house music when the scene started. I was just a kid, but I loved music and I used to steal his tapes! I had a karaoke machine and a mic and used to sing over the top of them, then I started searching for instrumentals where I could write and sing my own songs over the top. That lead to clubbing, decks, mixing, production. I was hooked."
So house was your first musical love?
"Well, my dad started me off with a love of all genres - rock & roll, Motown and soul - but my passion started with house music. It was the one that got me at a time when I really needed a connection. I knew before that I wanted to sing and create, and I played instruments all through school, but when I discovered house music I was obsessed and totally immersed myself into that world."
Who were some of the producers - and vocalists - that most inspired you when you were starting out? And now?
"First off, the DJs my bro was listening to: Graeme Park, Marshall Jefferson, Josh Wink; and voices I loved like Caron Wheeler, Loleatta Holloway, Gwen McCrae, Alison Limerick, Candi Staton; as well as bands like Massive Attack, Inner City, Zero 7, Moloko; and producers Murk, MK, Todd Terry, Masters At Work. So many over the years that I feel coming through in my music all the time."
Most iDJ readers will probably have first heard your voice on Kings Of Tomorrow's Can't Stop. How did you come to hook up with Sandy originally?
"It's a mad old story. I was in Ibiza, as a budding DJ with a bag of vinyl, at Bora Bora when it was in full swing back in the day. I knew the promoter, DJ Gee, and was doing a good job of pestering him to play. As we were leaving that day, fate looked down on me - Sandy was late and I got to play. He turned up and took over eventually and the rest as they say is history.
"We got in the studio together in London where we were both living and just totally vibed. He was a great mentor to me in my early days and I'm forever thankful for that. We have a lot of special music still to come. It's rare you make that kind of connection where the music flows so naturally."
You also sing with the Hacienda Classical project... how did that come about, and was it fun to do?
"The guys saw me DJing and singing live at ADE at Marshall Jefferson's party and asked me to get involved as guest vocalist. It's been one of the best things I've done in my career, and it's an honour to be part of it.
"Every show has been another level - bringing those anthemic acid house tunes to life, paying homage to the scene, and respecting the true fans there from the start whilst embracing a whole new audience. With a full live orchestra and choir, it takes your breath away and makes you really proud that our scene has stood the test of time and keeps growing."
So is that project still ongoing, or has it run its course now?
"We have the homecoming show in Manchester at the Apollo on 25 November - that will be mad. Let's see what happens next year, but I can't imagine people not wanting more of such a good thing..."
Coming to your new label RATED, then... what made you decide to set up your own label now?
"It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I've thought about it and talked about it, and now feels like the right time. I have good support around me and the knowledge, experience and music to feel confident in doing it now. It feels natural to me."
Will RATED mostly release your own material or will you be signing other artists/material? And will the label be releasing vinyl, or is it digital-only?
"Obviously, it's great to have an outlet for my music, and the freedom to release what I believe in, but that will certainly include other artists I believe in, music I'm feeling and want to push forward. I've always been excited by discovering new talent; I thrive on being around like-minded artists. And as I started on vinyl, I'm sure my journey will go full circle."
House music has sometimes had a bit of a problem with giving vocalists the respect they deserve... what's your take on that, being both a DJ/producer AND a vocalist?
"Yeah, to be honest, it's a bit of a fight. I knew it right from the beginning.
"See, I didn't come into it with a clear agenda, and I guess I was a bit naïve as I thought of myself as an artist from the off. So, I didn't get why it was all about the producer, and the featured artist wrote and performed and got a little tiny cut, and was lucky to get a mention. I just got in there, hustled for myself.
"I was already a DJ when people started to hear my voice and writing, so I felt like I just had to prove what I was about, learning fast to express myself and keep developing my sound, making my own music. I've worked with a lot of people who do respect every part of the process, but sadly some don't. What's a song without a voice? Let the voice have a name, and a face!"
And speaking of being taken seriously... sadly, even in house music we are still having to have discussions about gender equality in 2017! With 10+ years under your belt, what advice would you give to young women starting out on a career in music now?
"I can't make it sound like a sweet path, especially if you're someone like me who wants to do things your own way. You just better believe in yourself, stay true to your cause and listen to your instincts."
Finally, what else is going on for you right now that iDJ readers need to know about?
"I'm smiling in my studio, making sure that I love the music I'm making, and it's bringing emotions that I love to hear in music. I can only hope that transcends to the listener and my genuine passion reaches people - then I'm happy and I'll keep on keeping on."
Words: Russell Deeks
My Soul is out now on RATED, and is available on Beatport